September 14, 2022

Jean-Louis Warnholz, Co-Founder and CEO of Future

As co-founder and CEO of Future, Jean-Louis Warnholz oversees Future’s overall strategy, forges impactful partnerships, and develops financial tools to simplify climate-smart living for families and individuals. Jean-Louis possesses years of entrepreneurial experience. As the Founding Principal and Managing Director of the BlackIvy Group, he was responsible for the company’s growth strategy and development of new businesses. Anchored in Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, BlackIvy delivers life's essentials to consumers in Africa across five verticals in health, housing, food, logistics, and warehousing. Previously, Jean-Louis worked for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office, the Soros Economic Development Fund, and the World Bank.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the behind company lines podcast. Today, we have Jean Louis, Warnholz co-founder and CEO of future. Future is a debit card where you earn up to 6% cash back on eco-friendly purchases. Jean Louis. Thank you so much for joining the podcast. I'm so excited to dive in your background, your experience and, and what you're doing at future.

Julian: Just to jump right on in, what were you doing before you started the. 

Jean-Louis: Well, gosh, for the last 10 years, I've been fortunate to build companies across east and west Africa that help deliver basic kind of goods and services to, to, to folks in countries like Ghana, Tanzania, and, and, and Kenya.

Julian: Wow. What, what kind of goes and services? Were you where you working on 

Jean-Louis: I'd started with, with, with housing and, and, and healthcare, and more recently has moved. Food's really with a, with a vision of empowering local farmers entrepreneurs to produce a lot of the, the kind of high quality food products that that you'd need locally as opposed to shipping them in from Europe or other places, often at a very high cost to families and a very high carbon footprint.

Julian: How has that impacted the local community in a company's or receiving regions like Ghana and in Africa kind of overall. 

Jean-Louis: well, I think it, what it does, it creates a lot of vulnerabilities. Yeah. If you can imagine if you, everything is, is or, or a lot of kind of food stops are, are imported mm-hmm from, from overseas, when things are happening, like what we've seen.

Jean-Louis: Over the, over the past few months where, where the price of, of weed and, and other goods yeah. Has, has really spiked. Obviously if you're importing everything from overseas, you're, you're particularly vulnerable to, to those kinds of shocks shocks. And what it means is that families often tend to pay more then then, then they should have if things were sourced more locally.

Julian: Yeah. What what's, what do you, what, in your opinion, or what have you seen has caused like the rise in, in the increase in goods and services? And I think. I think most countries are, are kind of facing the increase in, in imports overall. But what do you think has been the, the general rise? Is it scarcity or is it something else?

Jean-Louis: Well, I think what we've, what we've seen a lot in the last in the last few months is obviously due to what's what's happening in, in Europe where a lot of the, the weed imports that, you know, countries like, like Ghana and Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya depend on. You know, block that at, at the ports and are not able to, to leave the port of ESA, for example, mm-hmm and so the, the knock on impacts for countries that depend primarily on those imports is is, is particularly high.

Jean-Louis: Yeah. Because we've seen the, the impact around the world, but it's particularly strongly felt in, in, in those. 

Julian: Yeah, I, I you know, a guilty pleasure of mine is I love to watch the YouTube videos of you know, creative technology being introduced in, in places where they need kind of an interjection of of innovation.

Julian: And so there's such creative ways that not only the local community is, is reusing you know, waste and other materials like that, or just tapping into their own. In building small businesses. Obviously it gets me so excited about the potential for just like globally, you know, and, and, and founders and leaders.

Julian: What have you seen in those areas that's like, particularly exciting to you in terms of, you know, what you've built and, and how you've helped communities kind of I don't, I don't wanna say stand on their own, but, but almost kind of influence their own, you know, kind of local. . 

Jean-Louis: Yeah, I think often when, when we think about the sustainability mm-hmm movement, I think what, you know, comes to mind is a, is a fancy Tesla sports car, or, yeah, very high end Patagonia jackets that are, that are made with kind of more sustainable materials.

Jean-Louis: But I think if you really think about, you know, communities that are living kind of sustainably. With, with the lower carbon footprint, it's often kind of communities, whether that's in, in a, in, in a, in a country like Ghana or, or here in the United States that are just making ends meet and, and just recycling materials because it's, it's the smart thing to do for your, for your wallet.

Jean-Louis: Yeah. 

Julian: What do you think in terms of the impact of climate change and, and sustainability has long term, like, if, is it, is it, you know, is it reliant on local communities? Is it an interjection of private businesses? Is it government kind of regulations? What do you feel is gonna be the most impactful?

Julian: In, in the future, in hopefully in the near. 

Jean-Louis: well, that's a, that's a kind of tough, tough question to, to unpack, but I, I think what, what future is focusing on is really what we can do as, as, as individuals. I think mm-hmm, often, you know, the narrative rightly focuses on what you know, bigger companies can do and, and what governments can do.

Jean-Louis: Mm-hmm but future is focused on empowering, you know, families across America and beyond America to really do their part and figure out smart ways. How. You can focus on products and services that are, you know, great for, for your wallet and great for the planet. Right? Yeah. Often we kind of think about them as, as kind of two opposites when in reality, you know, if I'm cutting out electricity use at, at home and I'm, you know, I'm saving I'm saving cash on my electricity bill, right.

Jean-Louis: That's also good for the planet. And future is really focusing on that inter. And we are telling people around the country just how much power they have to to make those those, those changes. Right. They might feel small for an average family. Mm-hmm but once you add them up, we're talking about, you know, millions and millions of tons of, of carbon that we can suck under the atmosphere.

Jean-Louis: Yeah. 

Julian: What, what was the inspiration behind starting future. 

Jean-Louis: so for me, to be honest, I've been fairly ignorant about climate change. Most of my life, like my, my big passion was bringing more investment and more business mm-hmm to east and west Africa. But as I've spent time on the ground and in places like Ghana or, or Kenya, I think I've.

Jean-Louis: Firsthand how farming communities are starting to struggle because the rain start arriving at a different time of the year. You have, you know, major flood events or major droughts, and often in those communities, the safety nets just aren't present. And I've also experienced what extreme heat feels like right when there's no air condition and air conditioning.

Jean-Louis: And it's extremely humid and it's very, very. And we see those extreme heat waves more and more often it's become clear to me that everything that I was passionate about was ultimately under threat from the impact of climate change. Mm-hmm that motivated me to start future. 

Julian: I love that. I, I remember the story of, I, I think it was South Africa.

Julian: If, if I recall who was having a, a short of, of water supply and they were in, you know, they were in kind of a. Kind of a red alert situation where, where they might have run out of water in Cape 

Jean-Louis: town. Yeah. Cape town. That's what it was Cape town a couple of years ago. Yeah. Their water reserv war was, was, was really depleted mm-hmm and that was, you know, think about what's happening now in, in parts of California mm-hmm and multiply that by.

Jean-Louis: By, by bridges and that's kind of what they were 

Julian: facing. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I love that the community came together kind of view small incremental changes in the way they used it. And it was the, the community effect and, and the fact that it multiplied across families that really allowed them to you know, not, not deplete the water supply so rapidly, but I actually do it as a sustainable level for them not to, you know, go with hot water, which as we know as humans, you know, we, we need every.

Julian: How, how, and you talked about it a second ago, but how has future kind of impacted those micro decisions? Can you talk a little bit more about how you've enabled people to make those changes in their lives and, and kind of created a reward based system for smart decisions? Or I guess eco-friendly decisions.

Jean-Louis: Yeah, I think for, for us in a, in a nutshell it was, it was really simple. I think we, we often saw that folks across the country have. pay more for the sustainable option. Yeah. and we really wanted to kind of kind of shift this and, and, and turn it upside down and actually reward you and basically pay you to reduce your carbon footprint.

Jean-Louis: Mm-hmm so future is offering you cash back. If you take the train, if you charge your car, if you are, you know, buying you know, real love secondhand fashion, that's still in great shape. Significantly cheaper than, than what you would find kind of new on the rack. And so by really focusing on, you know, like, how does this impact you as a family?

Jean-Louis: Like how can you Julian save some cash and save some carbon every day? Like, what are the choices that you can make? Yeah. And that's the contribution that at, at future we, we want to make will constantly give you options to do good and do well. And Get get more cash and, and, and slash slash your carbon footprint.

Jean-Louis: I love 

Julian: that. I love that. And, and yeah, I mean, I, I struggle every day with. You know, adding more waste, especially, I mean, just the smallest amount of like getting more grocery bags at the grocery store. I hate having more plastic because I'm like, man, I'm just throwing that back into the landfills and it's creating such a, you know, such, such a negative effect.

Julian: I'm, I'm curious to, to hear a little bit more about, do you partner with companies and, and that's how you're you recognize those purchases? How has that, how does that mechanism work in terms of recognizing purchases? I don't think a lot of us. How it works kind of on the back end kind of underneath.

Julian: Is it partnerships, is it some kind of technology that you've created or 

is 

Jean-Louis: it something else? Yeah, so we we're at, at future, we're able to kind of pick up what, what area you, you purchase fault in. So for example, you know, you have an electric car and you charge your car. It doesn't matter where you charge the car.

Jean-Louis: We're able to kind. You plugged in mm-hmm you charged up your car, you know, this is better for for the, for the climate. Yeah. And we give you 5% cash back the same, you know, you write the subway in, in, in New York or you write the Metro up in, in LA or mm-hmm in, in San Francisco. We can kind of recognize that, you know, that's what you were doing and we categorize that as a, a kind of climate smart mm-hmm and then we have built a few kind of integrations on the, on the backend where we look at particular company like just salad is a great example here on the, on the east coast.

Jean-Louis: Mm-hmm , they've just offered a Tarian menu for low-carbon salad options. They also focus kind of smartly around, you know, ways. Lower the, the waste production that that, that happens at the restaurant. And so we know when you shop on their app or when you buy a salad in store and we give you 6% cash.

Jean-Louis: Right there. And then when you, when you pay with your future card debit card. 

Julian: Yeah, I, I love that private businesses are focusing on sustainability climate change. Because I think more so than ever, consumers are really recognizing their purchases and wanna make those positive purchases and, and wanting to make it easy on, on the day to day.

Julian: Life is if I. No, I wouldn't say the responsibility of private businesses, but I think there's so much opportunity there. And, and so much influence that they can have kind of overall, tell me a little bit more about the traction that future receives with its partners, with its, with its customers and with your exposure, you know, and, and, and in, in the market.

Jean-Louis: Yeah, I, to be Frank I've, I've really been, been humbled over the. Gosh, it's, it's only been, it's been less than a year. Yeah. Wow. Since we since, since we, since we launched. And so we've yeah, built I think an incredible member base. We now have members across each state in, in, in the us, we've been able to inspire some wonderful future partners to, to join us.

Jean-Louis: I've talked about just sell mm-hmm you know, rod power bikes, which is kind of leading. The kind of e-bike revolution here in, in America is, is, is one of our partners. Mm-hmm as well. And we have interesting kind of circular fashion brands, like four days and, and high and others who've who've joined it.

Jean-Louis: So I've been incredibly excited, I think by the, the uptake overall, we are thrilled that you know, just just as months we appeared in real simple and, and won their smart. Award and for us, it's, it's really just the beginning of, of building a movement that is focusing on choices that are, you know, smart for your bottom line as a, as, as a family and as a household and, and really smarter for the, for the planet and, and future generations to come.

Julian: I love that. I love that one thing that, that came to mind as you know, you're, you know, we're talking about private businesses, we're talking about, you know, from the individual level you know, recently there was the inflation reduction act that, that got passed, which is creating more incentive to purchase.

Julian: You know, climate friendly and sustainable options for cars for for solar equipment. How has legislation like that? Like what, what do you think about legislation like that? Is, is it something that's gonna add on to the benefit of, you know, climate change and, you know, companies like future, or do you, or, or is it something else or is it something that that's gonna impede or stop?

Jean-Louis: no, I, I think it's it, it will have a huge impact. Mm-hmm I think just, you know, take a kind of small example, I think for for, for, for my household, I was fortunate to kind of transition to electric electric driving. Yeah. I was fortunate to. To add a solar roof on, on, onto our house and actually kind of save money on my, on my monthly utility bills, which has been, which has been great.

Jean-Louis: Mm-hmm and part of what I think we wanna see with future is to just make these choices so much more accessible to families across the whole country, right? Often, you know, driving a Tesla is, is, is kind of still seen as, you know, it's a luxury car. It's. It's the price point is, is pretty high. And so part of what the, the new bill does is as one element is it actually gives you ultimately up to $4,000 of a tax credit.

Jean-Louis: If you buy a secondhand electric vehicle where prices I think are coming down significantly. And so everything that we do, whether it's in legislation, or we do that on the corporate side, that just makes it easier for people to choose. Low carbon products and services. I think that's the direction we, we have to go in and I think.

Jean-Louis: Inflation reduction act is, is a big milestone in, in furthering that goal. 

Julian: Yeah, no, the, the, I love the idea of infl incentivizing the secondhand market as well, because you know, it, it's kind of I don't wanna say trickle down effect, but you know, amongst those who can't purchase the first, you know, version of a product, they do have an opportunity to come at, you know, later versions.

Julian: And those versions are still, you know, useful. They still work as they, they function when they were new. You know, it kind of influences a lot of the general public to make those carbon friendly decisions. What company do you think is leading the way in making better carbon friendly decisions?

Julian: You mentioned Tesla being, you know, a company that has created kind of a standard for. Electric vehicles and, and people kind of think, I think it's almost synonymous with electric driving at this point. But what other companies, if, if not Tesla, do you think is leading the way in making carbon friendly decisions?

Jean-Louis: Yeah, so I, I think fortunately I think there's a, there's a whole, whole, whole bunch of companies that, that make it easy to lift climate smart. Like for example, everything I wear is, is secondhand. Like this shirt was made. Recycled plastic bottles right. The, the pens I wear are kind of secondhand. I got them cheaper, great qualities, no difference from, from buying them.

Jean-Louis: You. Yeah. And you know, the, the couch I'm sitting on is, is is, is kind of from a secondhand furniture marketplace. Yeah. So it's, it's, it's really that the kind of breath of options, where if you really want to make decisions that have a lower carbon footprint, you have a lot of opportunities to, to do that.

Jean-Louis: I think one, one company that we work closely. Now is, is, is back market, for example, mm-hmm right. Like we've kind of grown accustomed that every you know, every time there's a, a new phone release, right. We have to kind of get, get the new device. And I think what, what they're offering is, is a really neat way with full warranty to give you.

Jean-Louis: To give you renewed pre-law devices. Yeah. That feel just like the, the new thing, but, you know, the price tag feels very different, right? Yeah. It's, it's significantly cheaper. And the carbon emissions and the EWAS that that creates is, is significantly lower. So I think across marketplaces, fashion companies you know, car manufacturers, whether it's Tesla or Ford with the, the F-150 lightning or, or Volkswagen, that's bringing out the kind of.

Jean-Louis: Volkswagen bus kind of actually is the ID bus. I think there's a lot of just fun, exciting, novel innovation happening. Yeah. In, in that space, cutting all the way, you know, across to, to food and you know, folks serving low carbon salads or making alternative, you know, steak and burgers and things like.

Jean-Louis: Really yeah, really palatable and, and widely acceptable. 

Julian: Yeah. One, one thing that I'm always curious about is with all this you know, movement going towards purchasing things secondhand or used, or, or refurbished for instance, and, and reusing them or giving them a second life. I love the, the the term you use pre loved technology and the, for the pre loved phones.

Julian: What do you, what is the impact that has on companies creating new products? Is it gonna lessen the amount of supply that they come out with? Is it gonna create a new strategy? Like, I'm always curious on what that impact has on, on corporations, because their incentive is to, you know, attract new customer.

Julian: Have re CU customers who are repurchasing products and, and are returning. But what's the impact to them that you've seen or that you predict? 

Jean-Louis: Yeah. So I, I, I see a, a kind of longer term shift where we just live in a much more circular economy. Mm-hmm and in, in some areas, right. It's already commonplace, right?

Jean-Louis: Yeah. You're not rebuilding a house every time. Right, right. Yeah. You're moving. Right. You are. Most likely when you start out your life, like my. Five cars where used cars. Yeah. And I think part of what we're doing is we're just, you know, extending this to, to phones, to couches, to to, to the things we, we, we wear.

Jean-Louis: And I think it's just, it, it just makes sense economically. And I think supply chains are, are, are going to adapt over time. Yeah. I think it's, it's inefficient, I think for society and it's inefficient for, for companies to have such a, a high amount. High amount of waste that, that we are creating and carbon emissions alongside.

Jean-Louis: And so I think supply chains are, are going to adapt one of the things that I found kind of incredible as we are moving into our kind of new office as we are, as we are growing the company, is that yeah, we bought everything secondhand. And not only did we get great prices and great quality, but the stuff's also arriving in a couple of days.

Jean-Louis: Right, because, because it's already here, right. You don't have to kind of ship it in from from overseas. And, you know, you're facing kind of supply chain issues and, and long lead times. And so there's a lot of kind of drivers that I think make these choices just, you know, better . 

Julian: Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I I definitely had that when, when I was moving apartments, I'd moved from the east coast back to the west coast where I'm from and almost everything we purchased to furnish our apartment was secondhand.

Julian: And we went to a lot of, you know, secondhand stores and, and marketplaces to, to purchase from private sellers. And it is so doable. It it's so accessible. It's easy to, you know, pick up certain things in locations and. You know, personally, it made me feel good that I wasn't adding any more waste to, to the world.

Julian: I mean, it's something that's already there. It just needs a little bit of TLC, little clean, little elbow grease, and then it's completely usable. So yeah, I love, I love that. You know, you were able to furnish your new, new office with secondhand furniture and equipment. I think. Companies are doing that actively are, are more thoughtful in their approach.

Julian: And, and I think, you know, long term will have more success because they kind of incorporate all different types of factors into business as, as they move forward. I don't, I don't know if, I don't know if you, you have that same same conclusion, but that's something that I've seen is definitely 

Jean-Louis: a positive effect.

Jean-Louis: Yeah, I think just, I mean, just over the last year, I think the, the impact of, of climate change. Felt more and more strongly across the world. I think, I think, you know, every summer we have a heightened number of, of kind of extreme weather events. We, you know, obviously are facing drought and wide wildfires and extreme flooding on the, on the west coast, extreme flooding events, kind of on the east coast and across the country.

Jean-Louis: We've seen major heat waves in Europe and now in China. And so I. The impacts of time and change are only gonna rise in, in, in, in public perceptions. And I think companies that aren't doing the right thing and that are more thoughtful about the cost of carbon emissions. Yeah. I think will, will ultimately, will ultimately do better.

Jean-Louis: I think by future is, is really focused on is that, you know, just like you've been talking about with, with, with your, your move. Right, right. There's a lot of stuff that we could do that is not hard. Yeah. Climate change is presented in kind of very stark terms. Right? You shall not do, you know, you shall not drive or fly or ever eat very strict.

Jean-Louis: And I think we're missing. Yeah. And we're missing all the kind of no brainer choices where like, okay, I get great stuff. I pay less. I feel good about it. Mm-hmm and it has like 90% lower carbon emissions. And so I'm, I'm saving kind of tons and tons of carbon. That's no longer going in the atmosphere. And that's, that's what we're focused on.

Jean-Louis: And we are focused on this by giving people, you know, real cash back for, for those purchases and, and, and real rewards. Cuz I think that kind of action should be, should be rewarded. We're not focused on kind of planting trees or helping you offset your F footprint. We're actually helping you reduce your footprint by things that are also great for.

Julian: I love that. I love that. What are some of the biggest risks that future faces 

Jean-Louis: today? Look, I, I mean, we're, we're, we're still a teeny tiny startup. Yeah. And, and I think as we're, as we are now in a, in a rapid growth phase, there are a lot of decisions that we face that we face every day.

Jean-Louis: Sometimes we make the right ones and I'm sure sometimes we make the, we make the wrong ones and you want to make sure that you. Air on the side of, of making the right decisions more often than, than, than not. And so I, I think this is, is always a, a high risk phase mm-hmm , but I have to be honest, I think in terms of the reception that we've seen to date from, from our members, which you know, is really what, what matters most has been.

Jean-Louis: Yeah, it's, it's, it's really humbling and mm-hmm and really, really exciting. I think we're, I think we're onto something. yeah. Families across the country want to be empowered to do the right thing and, and yeah. Be rewarded and, and kind of join this movement that you know, takes better care of both our financial health, but also the, the health of our planet.

Julian: Yeah. I, I love the reward base incentives that companies are offering, because it does influence a consumer that. You know, it it's like it's, I feel like the old model was create a product that somebody just like can't get off of. And now it's creating a product that continues to reward and incentivize people positively so that they're influenced more and incentivize more to return to that product, different kind of dynamic.

Julian: But I think, you know, positive rewards. You know, being in psychology have always led to further success, further, further adaptation and overall just better results. What's the long term vision for future. 

Jean-Louis: So I think futures building futures, building movement that I think in the, in the long term is, is looking to, to kind of touch people's livelihoods, whether this is, is in America or, or across Europe or, or other parts of, of the.

Jean-Louis: And we want to be synonymous with making climate smart choices and doing that in a way that's kind of exciting and novel. Yeah. And, and, and rewarding. So what you'll see from us over the next over the next few months. And, and beyond this, I think more, more features that inspire you to choose low-carbon products and, and, and services.

Jean-Louis: We're adding more brands onto the platform, which I'm really excited about. Yeah. To just really deliver more savings to, to, to you as, as, as one of our of, of as, as one of our members. And and so I think that's, that's where we are going. I think over time we recognize that to inspire families.

Jean-Louis: To, to make a shift towards, you know, secondhand purchases or the, the circular economy. We really have to be able to deliver outsized rewards. Right? Yeah. Like we want our members to, to think, well, why didn't I do this sooner? Sure. like, when, when my family shifted to buy all of our clothes, you know, I have a bunch of kids and so all of our clothes, second.

Jean-Louis: Yeah, my wife and I would say, well, you know, this, we should have done this years ago. Yeah. Because it, it just makes it, it just makes perfect sense. And so that kind of moment, I I'd love to to inspire more and more families to, to, to share that across the country and beyond. I love that. I love 

Julian: that bonus question.

Julian: What books or people influenced you the most? 

Jean-Louis: Gosh, it's, it's a, so I've, I've been a, an avid reader. Growing up. And so it's been it's been too many to list. It's been a whole bunch I, I think more recently I've I've kind of reread nudge and the, and the tipping point mm-hmm to really kind of think through, you know, how do, how do movements happen?

Jean-Louis: Like, you know, what, what does it take for, for something to. Shift, not at the margin mm-hmm , but, but shift really really on a, on a major level. Yeah. Because I think for future to be successful we are looking to yeah, have millions and millions of households join our our movement mm-hmm and that really requires a tipping point.

Jean-Louis: It requires kind of a spark. just excites a lot of folks to, to kind of jump on and, and think differently about their consumption and, and the words that they can get as a result. I love that, 

Julian: man. Well, so excited about how your company is influencing just the, the positive day to day decisions that we can make as consumers to, you know, make carbon friendly and eco-friendly decisions and purchases and enabling more than restricting the, the user base.

Julian: So thank you so much for being on the show. Where can we find you? Where can we support future final? You know, tell us all your channels where, where we can support the movement. 

Jean-Louis: well, first, you know, just join us at, at, at future do green mm-hmm . And then, you know, find us on, on LinkedIn, Twitter and and, and Facebook.

Jean-Louis: Awesome. 

Julian: Well, Jean Lee, thank you so much for being on the show. I'm really excited to, to see where the company progresses, not only in the next few months, but for the next year and beyond. Thank you again for joining behind company. 

Jean-Louis: Julian. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I really appreciated it.

Jean-Louis: Yeah. To make sense.

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